For many years Western science has known that dietary restriction lengthens life in all animals including mammals. At first it was thought that restricting calories was the key – limiting caloric intake to just enough so as not to suffer any malnutrition seemed to extend lifespan in worms and rodents up to 30%. Small human trials then began, and although it was not possible to witness entire lifespan shifts, it was noted that in the restricted groups chronic disease lessened or disappeared, and many biomarkers of health improved. This appeared to be a sure tool in healthy life extension, or at the very least a surefire way to lessen or delay the onset of chronic disease.
Now more specifics are coming clear. In a Leading Edge review published at the end of February in Cell magazine, the authors looked at where the science of promoting health and longevity through diet stands. And this is the single most important piece of information in that overview, because it is something all of us can do right away, with little problem:
An amino acid called Methionine may in fact be the culprit when it comes to dietary restriction and lifespan. It was found that decreasing intake of methionine by 60% brought about the same lifespan extension in flies and rats that total caloric restriction did. Additionally it seems as though, although this has yet to be fully studied, the addition of more glycine to the diet may act in a similar fashion as removing the methionine.
Let me explain.
Methionine and glycine
Methionine is a necessary amino acid to formulate body proteins, an essential amino acid that we must get from food. It is also used in the body to create SAMe, you may have heard of this as it used as a supplement for depression and anxiety. The SAMe then cycles further to become homocysteine, which is detrimental to the body in that it triggers inflammation and appears to compromise the blood brain barrier. High levels of homocysteine in the blood are found correlating to chronic disease states including cardiovascular diseases and bone fractures as well as mental illnesses and cancers.
Excess homocysteine can either be taken out of the body if the right conditions exist, or are left to circulate, causing the further breakdown of tissue and eventually disease states.
If the right conditions exist (the presence of trimethylglycine), the homocysteine will be converted back to methionine in the liver, and again if another set of conditions is right (the presence of the antioxidant glutathione, and glycine) the methionine will be wrapped up and excreted.
So the new research makes sense. Limiting methionine will limit homocysteine. Increased glycine assists the liver in eliminating excess homocysteine and methionine, as well as other toxins.
For the average woman, the RDA for methionine is about 1100mg/day. According to the new research, cutting that by 60% creates the proper anti-aging ratio.
As research on this progresses we will know if simply balancing the methionine by adding more glycine is just as good as cutting the methionine, but in the meantime only good can come from adding glycine. Gelatin was a food used in nearly all traditional diets around the world. It is known to be “health-inducing” in traditional cultures. And as it turns out, is very high in glycine. There are two forms available, hydrolyzed, which does not gel and can be mixed into anything, and whole protein gels that can be made into Jello, for example.
The hydrolyzed works well for improving skin and joint health; the whole protein can be used in cases of compromised gut health, as it heals the gut lining and mucosa.
Glycine in any form helps improve sleep.
Liver Detoxification and Health
The liver is the organ that processes all of the excess drugs, hormones, pesticides, metabolites, inflammatory chemicals like histamine and homocysteine and toxins that we carry. The proper functioning of this two-phase detoxification process is vital to good health. If the liver function is impaired, the unwanted substances such as homocysteine and methionine can back up, and get recycled back into even more harmful molecules.
There are a few factors that can influence good liver detoxification function, and one of them is genetic. Knowing how your detoxification pathways are functioning is one of the vital keys to long life and good health. There are key food, spices and amino acids that are vital to proper functioning of the detoxification pathways, and I will cover them in the next installment of this article.
Ensuring that homocysteine and excess methionine are being removed from your body is also a key part of the process of gaining longevity, and adding glycine will ensure this part of the process.
Next up will be a more detailed view of the liver detoxification.